Do you have Filotimo? We all need some of this Greek virtue…

I wrote some time ago about Bella Figura which is an Italian expression about embracing life and living in the ‘Now’. I have, having spent time in Greece, found something similar in the Greek language however this time it is about the way you live your life and treat others.

Filotimo or philotimo is a Greek noun comprising of the words philo (verb translated as ‘to like’ or noun translating as ‘friend’) and timo (verb translating as ‘to honour’). It is hard to explain, impossible to translate in one word in any other language and so commonly used among Greeks that it is somehow believed that you are actually born with it and must stand up for it all of your life. And just because filotimo represents a way of life for Greeks it includes ideas and virtues, such as honour, justice, courage, dignity, pride, self-sacrifice, respect, freedom, gratitude and hospitality.

In the past Philhellene German Health Ministry executive, Andreas Deffner, published his book about Greece, its people, customs and the crisis plaguing the country entitled, Filotimo. In his attempt to explain the deepest meaning of the hard-to-translate word, Deffner used the simplified and humorous recipe:

Two or three positive Thoughts,
A Litre of joy of life,
500 grams of Hospitality,
A whole ripe Friendship,
10 drops of Helpfulness,
A little pride, dignity and sense of duty.

Philosopher Thales of Miletus also said that fhilotimo to the Greeks is like breathing. Filotimo is considered to be the highest of all virtues among Greeks and is particularly praised when adversities and misbehaviour occur. It defines behaviour within the family and society.

Learning to live with filotimo begins at an early age when children learn to show respect and love for their parents and grandparents. Growing up, they begin to feel pride for their country and ancestry, help friends with their problems and perform acts out of generosity without expecting anything in return. Being equal with others and respecting them is the key to realising what filotimo means.

In Crete during World War II, the locals risked their lives to help the Australian and British allies escape the Nazi powers, and they did so because of their filotimo, which at the time asked them to do anything within their power to fight for their country and help the foreigners who fought for them too.

I think we could all do with some filotimo in our lives. It costs nothing but is worth so much.

2 Comments

  1. I AM 6 MTHS OFF 90, MOTHER TO 2 OAPs AND GGMA TO 2 LOVELY GIRLS AND 2 BABY BOYS…..I LOVE YOUR PHILOSOPHY AND ATTITUDE TO LIFE….HOWEVER I REALISE YOU DO HAVE SOME ADVANTAGES OVER MOST, YOU OBVIOUSLY LIVE WELL AND DONT HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT WHERE THE NEXT POUND IS COMING FROM.GOOD FOR YOU ! THERE ARE OTHERS THOUGH NOT SO LUCKY AS YOU WHO DO HAVE TO WORRY ESPECIALLY THESE DAYS, WHERE JOBS ARE BEING CUT DOWN AND EVEN THE VERY TALENTED ARE FINDING LIFE VERY DIFFICULT. I SPENT MY CHILDHOOD AND TEENAGE YEARS IN WW2 RATIONING, IT WENT ON UNTIL EVEN AFTER MY MARRIAGE IN 1952. HOWEVER WE REALLY LEARNT TO BE GRATEFUL FOR WHAT WE HAD AND ENJOYED SIMPLE THINGS, LIKE ONE CHOCOLATE A DAY IF WE WERE LUCKY AND ONE NEW DRESS A YEAR. MY MOTHER MADE BEAUTIFUL UNDERWEAR FROM OLD PARACHUTES AND WE WENT FISHING FOR FOOD. HOW I APPRECIATE MODERN LIFE, NO FOOD SHORTAGES,TV TO WATCH ALL DAY, ALL MEDECINES AVAILABLE EASILY, EMAILS AND TELEPHONES FOR COMMUNICATION. YES WE APPRECIATED LIFE AND SIMPLE THINGS DURING THE WAR BUT EVERYTHING SINCE THEN HAS BEEN TRANSFORMED INTO A MAGICAL WORLD. I HOPE EVERYONE APPRECIATES IT AND ENJOYS IT TO THE FULL
    BY THE WAY, I HAVE BEEN EXTREMELY LUCKY 64 VERY HAPPY YEARS OF MARRIAGE, TRAVELS ALL OVER THE WORLD, A FABULOUS FAMILY WHO CARE AND LOOK AFTER ME,,,,,,WHO COULD WISH FOR MORE????
    GINETTE GRAY

    • Thank you for your comment – we love to hear other people’s life stories especially one like yours which has clearly been very full. Your generation are amazing – always so positive, appreciating what you have now. I certainly appreciate what I have now – my life has not always gone smoothly but I like to focus on the now and the positives. I hope that when I am 90 yrs young as you are about to be I will have as much to be grateful for. Best wishes, Annabel

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